Daily Archives: September 23, 2005

O’Reilly vs Donahue: The Deathmatch

So did anyone see this clash of the titans (originally broadcast on The O’Reilly Factor on September 21, then interrupted by breaking news and re-broadcast on September 22)? O’Reilly invited Donahue to talk about his support for Cindy Sheehan and his opposition to the war in Iraq.

I have my issues with Bill O’Reilly. But on this occasion, I think he wiped the floor with Donahue.

Take their discussion of Sheehan:

DONAHUE: And FOX is in the business of saying that this woman is somehow saying un-American things. Hyperbole.

O’REILLY: No, no, no, no.

DONAHUE: Listen to what she’s saying.

O’REILLY: Nobody said she said anything un-American. We say that her positions are radical. And they are radical.

DONAHUE: Let me tell you what’s radical. What’s radical is to send more Americans to die in this war, which is a monumental blunder…

O’REILLY: All right.

So Donahue completely evades the issue of what Cindy Sheehan actually stands for (and why it’s a seriously bad idea for the anti-war movement to make her its spokeswoman).

Then there’s this:

DONAHUE: You want to stay the course, don’t you? You don’t…

O’REILLY: Look, here’s what I want to do. I want to give the Iraqis a chance to train their army so they can defeat these people who are trying to turn it into a terrorist
state.

DONAHUE: Bill…

O’REILLY: That’s what I want to do.

DONAHUE: Bill…

O’REILLY: Go.

DONAHUE: Iraq was not a terrorist state.

O’REILLY: Oh, no.

(CROSSTALK)

DONAHUE: I hope I don’t patronize you for thinking that.

O’REILLY: He was a swell guy. He was…

DONAHUE: Saddam — Saddam was a bastard. But he was our bastard.

O’REILLY: He wasn’t anybody’s…

DONAHUE: Donald Rumsfeld shook his hand in the ’80s.

I have big issues with how the war in Iraq was sold to the public and how it was conducted, but I think O’Reilly is right: an immediate withdrawal from Iraq would virtually guarantee that it would turn into a murderous terrorist state, with terrible consequences both for Iraqis and for the rest of the world. Whether Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a terrorist state is not very relevant to this question (my own take on this: terrorist, yes; implicated in the September 11 attacks, almost certainly not). Whether Saddam was “our bastard” at one point is even more irrelevant (yes, we sided with Iraq in its war with Iran, but the United States’ role in arming Saddam in the 1970s and 1980s was negligible compared to Russia and France). Donahue is clearly evading the question.

Then, Donahue resorts to the Michael Moore-ish low blow of “you wouldn’t send your children to this war.” (Has anyone told Donahue, Moore, et al. that parents in America do not “send their children to war” — people enlist voluntarily?) O’Reilly, it turns out, has something to parry with: “My nephew just enlisted in the Army. You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” There follows some ridiculous macho bluster by O’Reilly (“Yes, and he’s a patriot, so don’t denigrate his service or I’ll boot you right off the set”), but on the basic point, O’Reilly’s got Donahue pretty good:

O’REILLY: Don’t tell me I wouldn’t send my kids.

DONAHUE: Loud doesn’t mean right.

O’REILLY: My nephew just enlisted. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

DONAHUE: All right. You — your nephew is not your kid. You are…

O’REILLY: He’s my blood.

So O’Reilly’s nephew his not his “kid.” (Why does anti-war rhetoric consistently infantilize our fighting men and women?) But the fact remains that O’Reilly has someone very closely related to him serving (or about to serve) in Iraq, and this particular rhetorical stunt won’t work.

In the end, O’Reilly hits the right note. He acknowledges that this was an “optional war” and possibly “a tactical error,” a war badly conducted to boot. But he also stresses that if we leave, we abandon Iraq to the terrorists. And in respose to this, Donahue has nothing to offer but his own brand of bluster and references to Halliburton stock.

Winner: O’Reilly.

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God and man at Dartmouth

In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk on the right about secularist intolerance toward Christians, and particularly toward Christian images and speech in public places. I agree that such a problem exists; in fact, I’ve written about it myself. But I also think there has been a lot of specious conservative whining on this issue (as I have previously argued, the complaint of “religious bigotry” is the right-wing version of politically correct victimology).

On National Review Online’s The Corner today, Peter Robinson posts an item titled “‘Tolerance’ at Dartmouth,” which at first glance does smack of secularist intolerance. It has to do with a brouhaha surrounding one Noah Riner, a senior at Dartmouth College and the president of the College’s Student Assembly.

According to Robinson:

This past Tuesday at Convocation, the formal event marking the beginning of the Dartmouth academic year, Riner gave a speech on the importance of character. In the course of this speech Riner mentioned–brace yourself–Jesus. An excerpt:

Character has a lot to do with sacrifice, laying our personal interests down for something bigger. The best example of this is Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” He knew the right thing to do. He knew the cost would be agonizing torture and death. He did it anyway. That’s character.

The result of these remarks? Young Mr. Riner has spent the balance of this week finding himself roundly (and pompously) denounced. A vice president of the Student Assembly resigned, calling Riner’s remarks “reprehensible.” A petition protesting Riner’s remarks was circulated. And The Dartmouth, one of the student newspapers, editorialized against him.

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?

So I checked out the link supplied by Robinson, to a post on a website called The Dartblog. The author of the post, a conservative and a self-styled “athiest” (sic), says he did not find Riner’s speech offensive and that the hullabaloo about it is ridiculous and intolerant. He quotes the same passage as Robinson, and expresses surprise that Riner’s dectractors characterized this as a “fire and brimstone speech” likely to make freshmen feel unwelcome.

Then I clicked on the link to the actual speech, and read this passage that follows the one quoted above:

Jesus is a good example of character, but He’s also much more than that. He is the solution to flawed people like corrupt Dartmouth alums, looters, and me.

It’s so easy to focus on the defects of others and ignore my own. But I need saving as much as they do.

Jesus’ message of redemption is simple. People are imperfect, and there are consequences for our actions. He gave His life for our sin so that we wouldn’t have to bear the penalty of the law; so we could see love. The problem is me; the solution is God’s love: Jesus on the cross, for us.

In the words of Bono:

[I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question.

Now that’s a bit different, isn’t it? (The reference to corrupt Dartmouth alums has to do with an earlier part of Riner’s speech in which he said that a Dartmouth education in and of itself was not a sufficient condition for being a good person, and cited the examples of three alumni who had committed, respectively, espionage for the Soviet Union, murder, and sexual assault.) Okay, so maybe it’s not “fire and brimstone,” as guest columnist and fellow student Brian Martin editorialized in The Dartmouth. But Martin was certainly correct when he wrote that Riner had chosen to “turn Convocation into a religious pulpit” and an occasion to proselytize, and that this was neither appropriate nor respectful to the freshmen.

Note that Riner did not merely invoke Jesus as his own personal solution. His message was quite clear: Jesus is the only solution for everyone.

Did Riner’s come-to-Jesus speech violate the Establishment clause? No, certainly not, since Dartmouth is a private college. Did officials and students at a multifaith school have a right to consider it inappropriate and offensive? You betcha. (Of course, I think it would have been equally inappropriate for a student body president to use a convocation to proselytize for any other belief system or cause, be it feminism, vegetarianism, opposition to abortion, or righteous outrage against the war in Iraq. And I do wonder if most of the liberal secularists who were appalled by Riner’s sermon would agree with that.)

And by the way, folks, if we’re going to talk about character … isn’t it, well, a tad disingeuous to complain about intolerant liberal secularists who object to a speech that merely mentions Jesus, and quoting only the non-objectionable parts of the speech?

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Word games

Neal, Neal, Neal.

I like Neal Boortz. And I’m generally not on the same political wavelength as MediaMatters.org. But here I am looking at a recent spat between them, and I’m thinking Boortz is wrong and MediaMatters is right.

On September 19, Boortz was involved in the following exchange on Hannity & Colmes:

COLMES: So they should not have — are you in favor of tax cuts? You want to have more tax cuts at a time — you want to cut the state taxes at a time when they’re still struggling to pay for it and help the rich? Is that what you want to do?

SEAN HANNITY (co-host): Absolutely.

BOORTZ: As much — as much as it disturbs the followers of Karl Marx, yes, I want the death tax over with.

COLMES: I’m a Marxist now, I see. OK.

BOORTZ: As a matter of fact, Alan, glad you mentioned that. I want it all gone, OK?

MediaMatters then ran an item titled, “Boortz referred to estate tax proponents as ‘followers of Karl Marx.'”

Boortz thinks this is unfair:

Not that it really matters to Media Matters, but here we have them cold engaging in a bit of rhetorical dishonesty. I most certainly did not say that those who supported the death tax were followers of Karl Marx. What I did allude to was the fact that followers of Karl Marx would also support the death tax and that Marxists would most certainly be upset if the death tax were to be repealed. Evidently the difference between the two statements is just a bit much for the brilliant progressives at Media Matters to absorb.

Sorry, but the “rhetorical dishonesty” here is Boortz’s.

His statement on the show certainly implied that the repeal of the “death tax” would be mainly upsetting to Marxists. By singling them out, Boortz was rhetorically lumping all proponents of the estate tax together with Marxists.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Suppose a liberal who was being interviewed on a TV show was asked by a conservative host if he believed there should be affirmative action favoring minorities in college admissions. Suppose he replied, “As much as it disturbs the Ku Klux Klan, I think we need affirmative action.” Would conservatives cry foul and accuse him of equating affirmative action opponents of the Ku Klux Klan? Sure they would, and rightly so.

Fascists, Marxists, libs, racists … can we have a little less name-calling all around, please?

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